Sunday, July 6, 2014

July 4 - 6: In the North Woods

Another travelogue:
My husband Paul and I headed up to the North Woods for the long holiday weekend, staying two nights at the Appalachian Mountain Club's Gorman Chairbank Lodge and Cabins. This was hardly roughing it: our log cabin featured a comfy bed and wood stove, and we were served sumptuous, family-style meals (and drinks) in the main lodge, which also housed a sitting area/library and bright, clean bathrooms with hot showers--all running off-the-grid. We were grateful for this comfort, as it made the wet weather bearable.

The theme of the weekend seemed to be WATER. We drove up on the Fourth of July, saw a cow moose feeding in a pond on the way. Ate lunch in Greenville while watching rain fall on Moosehead Lake from inside a restaurant with a leaking roof. Then we hit the muddy dirt roads and drove east into the woods to the camp. Once there, Paul fished off the dock for a while. That night, we listened to the syncopation of raindrops on the metal roof of our cabin while loons called from the pond.

Raindrops and fish rises
pockmark the water.
Across the pond, wren sings.

Even in heavy rain
fireflies flash
under the dark pines.

Saturday we'd intended to hike into Gulf Hagas, "the Grand Canyon of the East," via the Hermitage, a stand of very old white pines along the Appalachian Trail, just across the West Branch of the Pleasant River and below the gorge itself. Thanks to the continuing rain, however, that trail, which requires one to ford the swollen river, was closed. The AMC rangers didn't want anyone washing away downriver. So we hiked in the rain to the Head of the Gulf (the "start" of Gulf Hagas) via a longer, very saturated, slick trail. It was worth it. The rain eventually stopped and the drama of Gulf Hagas could be fully appreciated, as it was running full and high, serious whitewater. We slipped and slid our way along the rim past three different sets of falls (Stair, Billings, Buttermilk; didn't quite make it to The Jaws), then sloshed back up the trail across (and through) many pretty, gushing feeder streams, including a few streams that disappeared into holes in the ground to resurface a few yards downhill.

Rain spatters on leaves,
Buttermilk Falls churns--
we barely hear the wren.

Delicate things persist
amid the torrents:
ferns, lichens, bird song.

Undeterred by rain, us,
thrushes share wild flutesongs
across the wet trail.

Wild strawberries
at trail's end--
slugs found them too.

Last night the sky cleared over the pond just before sunset, touching the treetops with rich golden light. We indulged in hot showers and cranked up the wood stove, before enjoying a big turkey dinner in the Lodge. Before bed, Paul fly-fished in a nearby beaver flowage. Stars shone. High above the pond, the half moon danced closely with Mars and Saturn. Loons called across the pond. Life was good.

Today the river was still running too high for us to attempt a crossing to the Hermitage. So instead we hiked up Laurie's Ledge Trail to a viewpoint from which we could see spruce-topped mountains unfold all the way to Katahdin. Toads and frogs hopped along the still-wet trail, and thrushes and warblers sang amid the dense, leafy forest. We checked out nearby Little Lyford Lodge and Cabins, another AMC camp, then headed out of the woods. In Greenville, before we turned south for home, we enjoyed an excellent lobster crepe at a food truck, Cafe Crepe (which we were happy to learn is also in Freeport). All good adventures should end thus, with an excellent meal.

Backpackers bolder than us fording the waist-deep currents
of the West Branch of the Pleasant River
under the close eye of the AMC ranger one full day after the rain stopped.
Garter snake suns
on our cabin step--
a simple valediction.

From atop a log
toad's golden eyes, staring.
So that's his magic...

Lunch on Moosehead Lake.
Next table, float plane pilot
sets up new charters.

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